Car boot sales, street markets, bric à brac, flea markets, swap stalls and garage sales are extremely popular in Northern France but the biggest Braderie, as these are known, happens on the first weekend in September every year when some 10,000 vendors come together to line the pavements of Lille, attracting millions of visitors. You’ll find antiques, furniture, crockery, clothing, toys, games and all sorts of other items at rock bottom prices!
Although you’ll find a whole range of culinary delights in Lille, for this one weekend it is very much the traditional mussels and chips on the menu, as restaurants around the town try and out do each in an informal competition to see who can build the biggest mound of the empty shells. It’s quite a sight!
A fascinating history
La Braderie, as we know it today, is believed to have it’s origins in the Lille Fair which is known to have been in existence in 1127 and may well be older still.
In 1446 two butchers were given permission to sell meat and roasted herrings from the front of their house throughout the fair and this idea soon spread. It is believed that the name Braderie comes from the word ‘braden’ which is the Flemish verb ‘to roast’.
Roasted poultry certainly became the traditional food of the market but following a temporary short of poultry, mussels took over in popularity.
The bradeux, or non-professional sellers, first become a significant part of the market in the 16th century, when servants were given permission to sell their master’s old clothes and other items, such as crockery, that had seen better days.
Today the city becomes one huge pedestrianised, open-air market with thousands of traders, second-hand sellers and bradeux. It’s a fabulous time to visit if you enjoy hustle and bustle and a festive atmosphere plus mussels and chips washed down with a local beer.
All the details
In 2013 it runs from Saturday 31 August, 2pm to Sunday 01 September , 11pm
During this weekend, the metro will run non-stop every 3 minutes throughout the day and, during the night, every 6 minutes.
The tramway will run non-stop every 10-20 minutes and you can buy a “Pass-Braderie” for €4.80 for the 2 days.
The local tourist office (Palais Rihour, Place Rihour) is open throughout the weekend on Friday from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, Saturday from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm and Sunday from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm and from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm.
On the Saturday morning there is also a half marathon with around 5,000 entrants plus a couple of shorter races. For further details visit SemiMarathonLille.
It should also be noted that throughout the weekend many other tourist attractions are closed.
Photography courtesy of Lille Tourism Office top: © Maxime Dufour, middle and bottom: © Laurent Ghesquière